CNN BREAKING NEWS
Anthrax Scare: Tommy Thompson Testifies at Congressional Hearing on Anthrax
Aired October 17, 2001 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: If you've been with us for the past 30 minutes, sources telling CNN that more than 20 staff members of the Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle in his office, they have tested positive for exposure to anthrax. You may recall an anthrax- contaminated letter was recently received and tested, in fact on Monday of this past week. We should also note that FAA cautions, FBI rather, cautions that early testing shows follows positives.
And with that development, I want to go back to CNN's Kate Snow, who is checking in throughout Washington, on what is developing there.
Kate, what do you have?
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, CNN has confirmed, as you know, Bill, that there are more than 20 people in Senator Tom Daschle's office that appear to have tested positive for anthrax exposure. We believe that these are the results of tests based on nasal swabs that were taken from about 40 or 50 people who were in the office at the time the letter was opened containing anthrax on Monday morning. Those tests were taken. We understood that it would take 24 to 48 hours to get those results back. So we are making the connection and assuming that these results are from those particular tests.
I can tell you that all of those people who were in the office on Monday, were immediately looked at by the physician here on Capitol Hill, and were administered antibiotics. We're not exactly sure how much dosage or for how long they have been told to take antibiotics, but we know they were given Cipro, an antibiotic. In addition to that , yesterday and throughout this morning, in fact, other people who were not in the office, but who were in the area, the general vicinity on Monday when that letter was opened, have decided to go and get tested. They are in quite a long line. Yesterday the long line was an hour, sometimes two hours, and people waiting to get in have swabs taken so they can be tested to see if they had been exposed.
There was some concern that potentially or perhaps the anthrax in that letter might have been able to get into the ventilation system in the Hart office building, which is where you see these people in line, and that's why people were being tested just as a precaution. And again, these folks will have to wait another 24, 48 hours in order to get their results. They have been given Cipro antibiotics as well, a three-day dose. You are looking at picture of the Hart office building. That fire truck there actually from Monday. These are older pictures. But that building, I can tell you, is still in the same stage this morning as it was the last couple of days, where they have a corner of the building, one area of the building, one wing, if you will, about 12 Senate offices that have been shut down. Those are the offices of Tom Daschle and other senators in the area. All those people have been relocated to other buildings at this time -- Bill.
HEMMER: Kate, the mail has been stopped. We were told that earlier in the week. What do you know about going through that mail? Not to suggest that there is the possibility of other letters carrying anthrax there in Washington, but what do you know about that investigation and whether or not that's been sort at this point?
SNOW: Right, well, as of Monday, they pulled back all of the mail that hadn't been opened, so even things that had been delivered, they asked them, any office here on Capitol Hill, to return all that mail, and they put a stop on all of the mail. So no mail has been delivered ever since Monday morning. I can you tell that I have been told, we have been told at CNN, by sources in both the Senate and the House, that when the mail resumes, when they do resume eventually, they have a system in place to be able to check for biological and chemical threats. Whether or not they are checking the current mail right now that they have pulled back, one can only assume they are. But all can I tell you is that in future, they have a device in place.
HEMMER: Yes, we will see that as it goes on a day-to-day basis. Also, Kate, will Congress leave office early today?
SNOW: Well, we are understanding from house of -- from the House of Representatives anyway, and this comes from Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia, that they are planning on finishing up their work today early, is the way they put it to us, and they will try to finish early today so they can go and have a sweep of all of the offices in the House of Representatives, all of the House office buildings, which run alongside here, along the Capitol. We are told they want to be able to go through and do a security sweep, and that they then would return here for business on Tuesday of next week. That's important, Bill, because they add lot to get done this week. They were talking about dog the economic stimulus plan, trying to do some tax cuts and things like that tomorrow in the House of Representatives. If they take this break, they certainly won't be able to get to that this week.
HEMMER: And quickly, Kate, have you been able to take the temperature up there just yet. Yesterday at this time, we were talking about things being normal and people going about their operation. Have you been able to gauge that just yet?
SNOW: Well, I haven't been away from this particular site since this news came out. But I can tell you that even this morning, talking to people here on the Hill, there is a bit of anxiety. People are certainly nervous about the situation in the Hart building.
But as you point out, trying to get on with their normal business. There were many senators...
HEMMER: All right, I apologize for the interruption. The House speaker Dennis Hastert now speaking.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: ... work today and then suspend so that they can go through and do the environmental screens that they need.
We, too, in the House we don't know what's come through our postage machines. We aren't sure what has been distributed. We've held the mail in a member's offices. But we think it's prudent also to take some time and go through and make sure that this building and our office buildings are environmentally safe.
So we're going to allow members to leave after today's business is done. And we will be screening the buildings this weekend through Monday. We think this is the prudent thing to do. We'll be back to work on Tuesday. It's our intent to move and move the tax bill and other legislation and certainly the antiterrorism bill that -- we hope -- that we'll have preconference and conference by that time. And we'll take some of this time to get that work done in other ways.
QUESTION: What about the members safety, Mr. Speaker, (INAUDIBLE) going to be looking in these offices? Are people at risk and do they need to be tested?
HASTERT: Well, you know, if there is a risk, if there is a spore found, if there's some type of reaction, members are tested, as well as workers here -- people who staff the offices and the committees. There are 1,400 -- almost 1,400 people tested yesterday over in the Senate. We're doing it in a very methodical and prudent way. But that's not the risk right now. We just want to make sure, just like they did with the buildings in Florida and the ABC and NBC office buildings, they went through to make sure that those offices were secure and safe.
And we think we owe it to the people who work here, we think we owe it to our staffs that come from all across this country to serve the people of this nation, and quite frankly, we owe it to the members of this country, the people who've elected us, to make sure that his Congress can sustain and be here and continue its work. And we just need to make sure that our environment at this time is safe.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, there's a rumor this morning that your office in particular has received, if not an actual packet with substance, but suspicious package. Can you tell us anything about it?
HASTERT: I really don't know anything about it. It just happened just a few minutes ago, as you well know. My third administration office is under quarantine at this time. I really don't know any more about it than that.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, if there is a enough of a threat for you to send Congress home early, why not do it right this second? HASTERT: Because we want to make sure that the buildings are environmentally safe. They're going to be sweeping Senate buildings today, and we just will do a routine, methodical sweeping of buildings. There is no evidence that there is, but because of packages that went through the Senate machines, they did find spore on them.
HASTERT: They did find spore that was going through the ventilation system in the Senate. And to give people peace of mind, plus the safety of members and staff, so that we can continue to do our work in Congress, we think it's precautionary and prudent to make sure that everything is OK on the House side as well.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, because of the way things are playing out, has there been any serious consideration to expediting all of the end-of-the-year business, we have all of the appropriations bills, everything else that's hanging out there to just close up shop and call it a...
HASTERT: It's not our intent to close up shop. We're going to be here and do the work. You know, one of the things terrorists would love to do is take away our freedom and our liberty. Part of that freedom and liberty is having elected people, elected by the people, to do the work in this nation. And we're not going to relinquish that duty.
QUESTION: After you complete your work today, and before you come back on Tuesday, are the buildings completely closed off to staff and visitors to the buildings?
HASTERT: We're advising that all staff go home. If there is nobody there, we would expect that visitors would be not allowed either.
QUESTION: How late are you going to be in session today, and have you coordinated this with the Senate?
HASTERT: Well, we're coordinating on our side, but we will finish our business. We have a couple of conference reports to do. We have a CR to do, we have some legislation to pass. And we'll get that, and when we're done, we'll be done. But we haven't set any definite time.
QUESTION: Is your office under quarantine, is that in the Capitol (INAUDIBLE)?
HASTERT: My understanding is, it's under my third floor office. I haven't been there, I haven't talked to people...
UNKNOWN: Fourth floor.
HASTERT: Fourth floor office, excuse me.
QUESTION: Does this all apply to all of the congressional field offices or just the Capitol premises itself?
HASTERT: Just on the Capitol campus.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, you and other members have taken pride in the Capitol being open to people to come and see the business of the country being executed. The Capitol is now virtually closed down. You can't get mail from constituents, be responsive to constituents needs as well as you would like. How can Congress function if you can't be as responsive and open as possible?
HASTERT: We'll be responsive and open. Of course, you know, we used mail in the 1800s, and the 1900s. And now, we're in the year 2001, we have e-mail and a lot of different ways that people could communicate with us.
But we will make sure that the mail that we have is safe. And we'll have the testing of that mail coming through as soon as we can expedite that. And we intend as soon as possible to do the traditional mail service as well.
But right now, we're just taking a precaution and making sure, because we know that mail has come into the Capitol that is tainted, and the possibility of more of it...
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We go from the House speaker to the House minority leader Dick Gephardt. Let's listen.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT (D-MO), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We will find out if there is any further unexpected problems with anthrax. I think this is the cautious, and intelligent and proper, prudent thing to do. We don't think there are other problems, and -- but we think that in the world we live in today, this is the proper way to conduct business.
Members, many members, will be staying in the area. We will be meeting and working on antiterrorism efforts, working on trying to combat these problems. We have a task force on homeland security that will meet somewhere in the area here, and we will continue to do our business in some other locations until we can come back on Tuesday, get back on the floor, and do the nation's business.
KAGAN: Brief comments there from House minority leader Dick Gephardt. Now we are going to go back to the House speaker.
HASTERT: ... office and the discovery that this stuff has gotten into the ventilation system, is going through the tunnels, it was in the system of those buildings, and also, found in the mail room in the Senate were packages that moved through.
So to make sure that we protect people's safety, we thought it was also prudent to do a complete environmental sweep and make sure that we can resume business on Tuesday.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, do you know if all the people that tested positive are in Daschle's office? Or is there any other office?
HASTERT: I know a couple of them are Capitol police. I can't comment beyond that.
KAGAN: We have just been listening to comments from House speaker Dennis Hastert and also we heard from House minority leader Dick Gephardt. Both gentlemen letting us know that Congress will finish business today as usual. But after that, the Capitol and the Capitol campus will be shut down so they can complete an environmental sweep. That in light of the news, and Kate Snow, can you bring us more in on this, that 20 members of Tom Daschle's staff have tested positive or anthrax exposure.
SNOW: Right, that's true, Daryn. We are being told to be a little cautious about the number. It's a little bit unclear if it's 20, if it's a little less than 20, if it might be a little more than 20, but in any case, we do no for certain, confirming that there are some members of Tom Daschle's staff, who have tested positive for being exposed to anthrax. These are people who were in his office on Monday. They were at that time given a swab test. They took swabs from their nasal passages. Those tests have apparently come back positive.
A couple of notes about what you heard from Congressman Hastert and Congressman Gephardt, the two leaders of the House, the Republican and the Democrat, speaking again with one voice. Both of them saying they think it's appropriate, it is prudent for the House of Representatives to take a short break, if you will. They are going to do some work today, and then they are going to take a recess until Tuesday and come back, and get back to business on Tuesday. They are doing this, in the words of Hastert, so they can do a sweep. He said, we don't know what's come through the mail. We don't know what might be in our offices, what might be in the environment here, so we believe it's prudent to go through and make sure all of the House offices -- many of them, the buildings here in the surrounding the capitol, contain the offices of House members.
There are of course, 433 House members right now, so that's A lot of offices to go through. They want to take some time and be able to go through those offices and do an environmental screening, make sure that environmentally, it is safe to work in those offices.
You also heard Mr. Hastert refer to one of his offices, he said one of his personal offices, an administrative office of his. He has several different offices on Capitol Hill. He said one of those offices is under quarantine right now. We understand from producer Ted Barrett (ph) that that's because there is a suspicious package in that office. I don't want to be overly alarmist about that Daryn, because there have been a lot of reports of suspicious packages over the last few days, as you might imagine, most of them turning out to be nothing, but just being checked out in any case.
KAGAN: All right, Kate, well, people are taking slightly different direction than both House leaders, being very clear that they want it walk a fine line here. They to be safe, obviously, and they want everybody who works and visits Capitol Hill to be safe. But they also intend for business to go on, and the people's business to go on, and talking about how they are still going to be meeting, but perhaps if a different location.
SNOW: That's right, and that's an important point that we have also been hearing the last few days, ever sense word came out about Senator Daschle's office and the letter being sent there. It's been a chorus us of voices saying we don't want the terrorists to declare victory here. We don't want them to put us in a state of fear. We want to go on with the nation's business.
And I should note, we don't know yet what Senate is planning on doing, whether the Senate is planning on taking a break. We only know at this point that the House is trying to take a break, and plans to come back on Tuesday. And he said, you heard speaker Hastert say, they plan to take up some of the big issues that they were going to deal with this week, they'll take up next week, including the economic stimulus plan and tax cuts the president would like to see passed to help the economy.
KAGAN: All right, Kate Snow, thank you. We'll be back to you very soon. Meanwhile, we want to listen in on the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. He is testifying right now on Capitol Hill.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: ... of course rests with local governments.
But if the disease outbreak reaches any significant magnitude, however, local resources will be stretched very quickly, and the federal government will be required to provide protective and responsive measures for the effective populations.
In the testimony I have submitted to the committee, Mr. Chairman, I have outlined the specifics of how the various departments and agencies are working together in a coordinated effort. So, Mr. Chairman, let me again emphasize that the administration is taking aggressive steps to make sure that our country is well protected from bioterrorism.
And let me once again tell the American people the following: One, anthrax is not contagious. Two, the government at all level says responding to bioterrorist threats and responding well. And third, our postal system is being monitored very carefully. People should exercise caution, and if something seems suspicious, use good judgment. But there is no reason not to send and receive letters and packages. Fourth, be vigilant and cautious, but don't let the terrorists win by frightening us unduly. Do not let them scare you into not living your life. That would help our enemies achieve what they are trying to do, and that is terrorize American citizens.
Contemplating bioterrorism is very unpleasant, but it imperative. And under the leadership of this committee, this Congress and President Bush, we are taking all the steps necessary to keep America safe in an era when biological and chemical attacks are as possible as they are unthinkable. I want it thank you, Mr. Chairman, both Mr. Chairmans, and the ranking minorities members and all members on this committee for giving me this opportunity to talk about this subject.
Now, I will be more than happy to answer my questions you have.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Thank you very much, Secretary Thompson, for reassuring, and very helpful statement.
KAGAN: We are listening to testimony there from Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson as he testifies on Capitol Hill. If we need to, we will go back and listen to that question and answer session. Meanwhile, we did hear the secretary make important points, once again reminding Congress, and also reminding the country that anthrax is not contagious. The postal service in the U.S. is being carefully monitored. And also, sending out a message once again to Americans to be careful, to be aware of your surroundings, but not let the terrorists win and not live in terror.
More from the secretary in just a bit. Now here is Bill.
HEMMER: All right, Daryn, certainly, there is an awful lot to talk about regarding the investigation front and whether or not this sends investigators into another direction is an open question at this point.
But CNN's Susan Candiotti has been tracking the latest on the investigative side. She's live in Washington with more now.
Susan, good morning to you.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bill.
Investigators, yes, are very interesting in the anthrax that fell out of the letter Opened Monday in Senator Daschle's office. Investigators trying to determine where it came from, because it was being described as sophisticated, very virulent, good stuff, in the words of one government official. Sources say the strain may have come from overseas because it is so specialized, although nothing has been determined for sure. It's being analyzed at a military lab in Maryland that deals with research into biochemical warfare.
Now, there are also other things that they are looking at. Investigators say there are similarities between the Daschle letter as well as to the letter sent to NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw. Both had the same handwriting. Both were post marked in Trenton, New Jersey, and both had threatening messages and included a message "to Allah."
Now compare all of this, sources say, to the situation in Florida, where you may have a different incident altogether. Those involve the two cases of anthrax inhalation at American Media headquarters at Boca Raton, Florida, where one person, Robert Stevens, died, and another person, Ernesto Blanco is hospitalized. And remember, there is third case of anthrax exposure there.
FBI chemists have said, in that case of inhalation anthrax, there appears to be a natural strain that has been around for a long time that's involved there that does not appear to have been weaponized. And so, they are looking at a lot of different things right now. Meantime, at another front of the investigation, they are going after threats, which are looking at...
HEMMER: Susan, I apologize again. back to the Human and Health Services Secretary Tommy Thompson again, live on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... from becoming infected.
LIEBERMAN: ... say a little more about the distinctions, so we understand them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we say exposed, that means they were in an area perhaps where there was dust or a powder, or in a vicinity where a letter was opened up. They may have recovered spores from their clothing or from their nasal passages, but that's a far cry, that's very different from a having a bacteria setting up house, keeping and creating infection and illness in a human. They are to that stage, and with medical prophylactics, we don't get a proper environmental follow-up. We do not expect them to move to that stage.
LIEBERMAN: That's a very important distinction.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all of the anthrax so far, only four have actually become infected. Two in Florida, and two in New York.
LIEBERMAN: Very important distinction. So at this point, as far as the know, none of the individuals in Senator Daschle's office are actually infected.
THOMPSON: Absolutely. It's too early, and they are on the necessary antibiotics and they should not become infected.
LIEBERMAN: And as we learned yesterday in a briefing that senators received, it takes a pretty significant number of anthrax spores to actually become infected.
THOMPSON: Different amounts between the three different types of anthrax. Cutaneous is a break in the skin. Ingestion, you have different tainted food from animals that could get into your system, gastrointestinal, which takes less than inhalation. Inhalation they figure has to be at least 10,000 spores enter your system to become infected, and that's a lot.
LIEBERMAN: It is very important for people to hear that, particularly since the number of those exposed is larger than in other case that we have had. Thus far. I wonder if either of you, I just want to use this as a moment to help convey information helpful to us and perhaps the public.
THOMPSON: That is very good, I appreciate this.
LIEBERMAN: No, I thank you. I wonder if you have anything to say about what we can be determined about the fact that this anthrax sent to Senator Daschle's office was presumably more pure and refined than that sent to the other offices. Are there any conclusions we can draw about who was sending, what was done?
THOMPSON: That is being completely investigative by the FBI, senator. We have no knowledge of that at this point in time. We are hopeful to be able to have the FBI make some arrests and some breakthroughs. But at this point in time, it is purely speculation.
And the research in the labs. There is research being done at Fort Detrick, and also research done at our labs at CDC in Atlanta. And those, all that research and analysis, will be coming forth with to you and others members as soon as we get it.
LIEBERMAN: A final question for you about the fact here...
HEMMER: As the questions and answers continue for Tommy Thompson, again, he was reiterating fours cases of infection, to be clear again, two in New York and two in Florida when it comes to infection; infection and exposure two very dramatically different things.
Back to Capitol Hill. Kate Snow with developing news again.
Kate, what do you have?
KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, you see the number on the bottom of your screen changing there. We now have confirmed from House speaker Dennis Hastert that 29 staffers in the office of Tom Daschle have been exposed to anthrax. And as you point out, it's a very different thing, exposure and infection. These are people who have been exposed, show signs of spores being in their bodies. Also two of those 29, we're told, are Capitol Police officers. We don't know more than that about them.
We also know from House Speaker Dennis Hastert that spores of says of anthrax were discovered in the ventilation system in the U.S. Senate buildings.
Let me read you a quote from House Speaker Dennis Hastert. This is very important. He says, "Because of packages that went through the Senate machines, and I believe he is referring to machines that screen for biological or chemical threats, the speaker says, they did find spores on them, on those packages. They did find a spore that was going through the ventilation system in the Senate, and to give people piece of mind, plus for the safety of the members, they have decided to take a break and do a security sweep" -- as we have been reporting -- "of the house offices just as a precaution."
Bill, back to you.
HEMMER: And, Kate, before we let you go, do you have any idea, I don't want to put you on the spot here, but any idea of how many hundreds or thousands people pass through the Capitol Hill campus on a daily basis.
SNOW: It would be thousands of people. I can tell you, in the Hart building, where Senator Daschle's office is, I'm guessing, there are probably a thousand people work in that building, certainly 800, probably a thousand people who work in that building. That's why there have been so many people wanting to go ahead and get tested for possible exposure.
I might add, Bill, that testing continues as we speak. I spoke with a producer over at that building a short time ago, who tells me people are understandably very nervous right now, and that line has grown very long, but a lot of people, hundreds of people in line to be tested for exposure.
HEMMER: All right, Kate, stand by there on Capitol Hill. We're going to back inside again, Tommy Thompson. His testimony continues, and so, too, does the testimony from the medical experts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The safety of herds and other kinds of animal, veterinary activities. As for the sample in question, there are a number of tests that are ongoing that will look at the size, and the purity and the sensitivity.
I can tell you at this time, we are aware that sensitivity of this organism that was released in Senator Daschle's office is sensitive to Ciprofloxin, and Doxicyclin (ph) and penicillin, the common drugs that would be used to treat any kind of outbreak of this nature. That is in itself reassuring. The issue of whether it's weaponized or where it came from may take quite a bit of strain analysis and sophisticated testing, but that is ongoing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the lead.
It is our impression from a public health safety standpoint that we have enough information, in terms of its sensitivity, and its purity and isolation to make sure this is really is anthrax organism, to guide our investigation, both environmentally and make public health recommendations.
As soon as that information becomes known, it'll be make public as best it can.
LIEBERMAN: Just a final point of clarification. I assume it is some distance from the naturally occurring anthrax. That is anthrax that occurs naturally in the soil or in animals. From that to the kind of powder that was sent to Senator Daschle's office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just use a short answer for this. I think that it shows there has been some attempt to collect it, perhaps refine it, and make it more concentrated. That seems to be certain.
LIEBERMAN: OK, thanks very much to both of you -- Senator Thompson.
SEN. FRED THOMPSON (D), TENNESSEE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Your last statement was with regard to that found in Senator Daschle's office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
F. THOMPSON: Some attempt to refine it? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, when you have a collection of anthrax spores put into a package, that takes some effort to do that. This organism is in the soil, but getting it into spore form requires some degree of effort.
F. THOMPSON: What is the GAO report last month someone referred to, said that processing biological agents into the right particle size and delivering them effectively require expertise and a wide range of scientific disciplines. Would you agree with that, doctor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
F. THOMPSON: So if in fact we do find that this was more highly refined, in terms of particle size, weaponized, I guess is a good way of putting it, then that would indicate someone had a wide range of scientific disciplines?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me just extrapolate the process as you go through this. As the investigation unfolds and moves into either national security or law enforcement arenas, they will begin looking at strains, the match-up, what effort went into manufacturing it, and see if they can pinpoint a source, either a geographic location or a specific stockpile or a specific strain that inhabits a certain part of the world.
F. THOMPSON: This may a little bit...
T. F. THOMPSON: Senator Thompson, it has to be certain size for it to get into the body. If it is smaller than one micron or larger than 10 microns, it is not able to be inhaled properly.
F. THOMPSON: This is a little premature, I suppose, but indulge me with one more question. This may be beyond your purview. I have read that in order to produce especially large quantities of this powder form that would be weapons grade, if you want to call it that, that it would require substantial infrastructure -- I have seen millions of dollars -- to have that kind of production capability and facilities. As a general proposition...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is...
F. THOMPSON: Is that a correct assumption?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is our understanding, sir.
F. THOMPSON: With regard to the...
T. THOMPSON: It requires to have a weapons grade more than likely would have to have a country behind it.
F. THOMPSON: A country would probably be behind the weapons grade?
T. THOMPSON: But we want to make sure that none of this is a weapons grade.
F. THOMPSON: Yes, you want to make sure -- we don't know yet, Is that with regard to this?
T. THOMPSON: The past one was still being tested.
F. THOMPSON: With regard to these large stockpiles that we have developed and are in the process of developing and testing is this going to be have to be constantly replenished? Are there expiration dates on all these drugs as we commonly understand them? And what budgetary impact will that have in these huge numbers we are talking about?
T. THOMPSON: We have two different systems, senator. And some, in the push packages, some of those will have to be replaced. But we also have the vendor marketing inventory, and part of the agreement with the vendor's marketers is that their responsibility is to restore items that have used up their shelf life with new stuff, and that's built right into the contract, so it's an ongoing thing. There's some -- some of the more durable things are in the push package, but we have also a different system, which is called VMI, and that is brought up currently on a monthly basis, and that's being conduct and supervised by CDC.
F. THOMPSON: I see.
T. THOMPSON: And that's billed right into our contract.
F. THOMPSON: Mr. Secretary, there has been a lot of discussion, as you know, about Governor Ridge's position the authority that he has, or should have how. How do you -- with regard to all of these things that you and your department are doing, how do you see that fitting within his operation? How do you see -- that's not a good way of putting it. How do you see your relationship and your duties and responsibilities and all the things that you're doing intersecting with what you understand his responsibilities are going to be. Is that too broad a question to ask you?
T. THOMPSON: No, it isn't. It's a very valid question. Give you an example, as of 4:00 yesterday afternoon, we had meeting, various departments, with Governor Ridge, and we worked out some difficulties, and he was the coordinator and we threw out questions and problems, and just we had a round table discussion, and then we -- he would delegate -- Tommy, you take care of this one, and, Madame Secretary, you take care of that problem, Sir, you are responsible for this, and so on. So his job is to coordinate and make sure that when we have problems in the public health area, we can go to somebody like Tom Ridge and say, this is a problem, can you assist us with the FBI, or with the CIA, or with the Department of Defense, you know, and help us along, and it's been working out I think very effectively.
F. THOMPSON: How do you see foresee budget determinations. Would you expect him to have input in your decisions or would he make certain decisions in certain areas with regard to your department? How do you see that playing out? Have you gotten into that?
T. THOMPSON: Senator, I -- we put in this request, and I talked to Governor Ridge, and I know that he talked to the president in regards to this, as I did. And we all talked to OMB. I think somebody from the president, including Governor Ridge and myself, talked to OMB, and as a result of that, the request today of about $1.6 billion is in front of me.
F. THOMPSON: Thank you, my time is expired. .
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator Thompson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, I am pleased to hear the president's request for $40 million to support early-detection surveillance, to identify potential bioterrorism agents. This matches the authorization in my bill.
T. THOMPSON: And I thank you for that, senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look forward to working with you to ensure these funds are made available.
SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO: Mr. Chairman, could I ask the Senator's of you for 30 seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly.
LIEBERMAN: Go right ahead, senator.
DOMENICI: Mr. Chairman, we have a complication in that there's a meeting with reference to a collateral issue...
DOMENICI: ... at 10:30, and I will come back, if you are still here. I would appreciate the opportunity to inquire. I wanted you, Mr. Secretary, to understand why I'm not staying here.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And thank you for what you've been doing. You're doing a great job.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Senator Domenici, and we will await your return.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, I believe that the animal health community requires formal coordination with the HHS and CDC, and I'm delighted to know you both on the same floor, and there's much coordination. Currently, their interaction is on case by case or a need basis. Normal contact will ensure that animal health and agriculture issues are addressed by HHS and FEMA disaster preparedness. Federal efforts should also take advantage of the expertise that are...
HEMMER: As this hearing continues, we want to pass along the latest information we have at this time. It's coming quite quickly in the past 60 minutes, but sources on Capitol Hill indicating to CNN Kate Snow and other CNN producers. That 29 people in or near the office of Senate majority leader Tom Daschle have tested positive for exposure to anthrax. We should caution at this time, FBI officials have cautioned us that many false positives do take place as a result of some of these as field test. In other words, a test that may appear, positive now perhaps could prove negative later. It's something we will definitely track throughout the morning here.
In addition to that, the House Speaker Dennis Hastert has made public that there is a strong possibility he said that the Senate ventilation system in some of the Senate office building may have had a hand in helping to distribute the anthrax throughout the week on Monday of this past week.
But again, what we do know for a fact right now, 29 people have tested positive, and -- who have been related to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle. What this means still an open question at this time, but we will certainly try for answers throughout the morning.
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